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  • Writer's pictureMaggie Eliot

Real Life World Building

Hi friends! I've missed you. Sorry for the long absence. It's been an EXTREMELY busy summer with the real job and I've been doing a pretty good job of plugging away and making some progress with writing.

General writing updates for those of you keeping score at home: I entered a couple of contests in the last couple of months and have been getting materials together to start querying in earnest. Thanks to my amazing mentor, Annika Martin, I have a newly revamped copy of my manuscript ready to send out and a query letter that I don't hate! So I'm ready to conquer the world. As always, the carousel of manuscripts continues to turn, but I am making actual forward progress. I'm editing one that is complete and I'm about 35k words into the fantasy MS I've been randomly writing and about 25k words into the new romcom I'm working on.

All of that said, this post isn't about the ins and outs of creating work and trying to improve craft. This post is about building a community from the ground up. This journey of shifting creative circles has been a fascinating experience of starting over well into my 40's and remembering what it's like to be the new kid on the block. And the one thing that has made all the difference is PEOPLE; connecting with and getting to know people who love to write.

I had two big challenges in getting started with this process of building my writing world. The first (and I promise I won't forget the second) is that I've been entrenched in a fairly small creative community wherein I knew mostly everyone. I didn't have to extend myself or break out of my comfort zone. When I started writing (a MUCH more solitary art form than theatre!) I had to join organizations and (gulp) go to meetings! I had to make friends from scratch, so to speak, and be in a place where no one knew me.

This new environment is a fairly dangerous set up for me. As a lifelong performer, pleaser, youngest child, and someone with a compulsive need to make people like me, I can either come on strong or shut down in a fit of horrid shyness. People tend not to believe me that I'm shy, but it's true. I also will tend to ramble and say dumb shit, or name drop my friends that are on TV/in movies in hopes of impressing people, but that's a really bad starting point. Somehow, regardless of all of this overdoing it, I've begun to make some good friends and contacts out in the writing world (more on that in a moment).

The SECOND challenge I promised (and didn't forget!) is that I have to come out of my shell without my ace in the hole for husband. Wherever we've lived in our 20 year marriage, he's always the one who gets to know the neighbors or the other parents at school and then introduces me. When it came to my new writing life, I couldn't exactly say "honey, could you go Advance Team this local chapter of the RWA for me? Tell them I'm cool and report back with people you think I'd click with." It really doesn't work that way.

Thankfully, I made it through some of the initial awkward moments, like walking into my first meeting and sitting in the seats reserved for the board, or chiming in FAR too much with the equivalent of "well in THEATRE it's like this..." And once I'd made it through the awkward phase (similar to growing out one's hair), it was all flowy, fun good times.

I started a critique group with two other authors from the larger group and they are my people. It's a beautiful, trusting environment where I can check my imposter syndrome at the door and feel comfortable to ask so many dumb questions. We've only met online (thanks a lot COVID) but it's become a central part of my growth as a writer.

Additionally, I was SO fortunate to get to build a relationship with the amazing (aforementioned) Annika Martin through the RAMP program through Romance Writers of America (RWA) and had the added bonus of getting to know the other mentees in the program. Somehow this old lady (pointing at myself here) was dragged into the modern era through a Discord page created by one of the mentees and through the conversations there, I've gained a huge support group and continue to learn every day about writing, resources, querying, and more. What a blessing.

So I'm not alone anymore! I have peeps :) I feel like getting my old butt out there to connect with people is somehow an even bigger victory than finishing any of my first handful of books, or building this website, or an author Twitter, or anything else. Having people to run ideas and questions by is not only a huge help in learning, but it's a safety net that allows me to build much needed confidence.

All of this is a really long way of saying it takes a GD village to raise an author.

All the best you all!

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